This site was created to help educate bike buyers.

Listen up; it just may save you $5,500!        


In October 2006, I visited the Bruce Rossmeyer Harley-Davidson store (hereinafter: Rossmeyer) located in Pompano Beach, Florida to buy a friend an accessory as a birthday gift.  There I saw a Softail Custom that reminded me of the bike I owned 35 years ago.  It was a perfect fit.  This happened to be on my 55th birthday, so naturally I did what any prudent responsible man would do.  I bought the friggen thing.


Now, as to the bike, it runs way hot & lean like all new Harley’s do, but doesn't drip oil (Owning a Harley).  However, my initiation into the “Harley Lifestyle” was not decent.  I got taken by trusting the dealer and by my own ignorance.  When it comes to Harley-Davidson THEY AIN'T CHEAP, the MSRP is already inflated high enough for everyone to make a good profit.  Plus they make tons of money on CHROME and service.  However, "buyer beware" is most applicable here and there are unscrupulous greedy dealers waiting for the unaware. Harley doesn't care as long as the dealer is selling bikes.


Here is an outline of things you need to know when contemplating any motorcycle purchase:


MSRP vs. BASE PRICE – They are not the same!


New automobiles are required by Federal Law to have the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) posted.  This is NOT true for motorcycles and any other vehicles considered “recreational,” like RV’s and boats.  When my “deal” was presented, the first line item, BASE PRICE had nothing to do with the MSRP.  I was not told this and I found this out 3 days after signing, as I was taking delivery.  Past experience with new car purchases lead me to believe all new vehicles had the MSRP listed by law. This is what I based my buying decision on. I was willing to pay MSRP and was fooled into believing I was with the use of the wording "Base Price." The State of Florida, Div. of Consumers Affairs website 2006-7, even says that MSRP and Base Price are the same thing. (I have contacted them and asked them to correct this, but they have not taken any action yet.)


I confronted the Rossmeyer General Manager, Brian who said, "they could charge whatever they wanted!"  He further stated, "Bike dealers are not required to state the MSRP."  He knew I, the State of Florida, and others believed that MSRP and base price to be the same and used this ploy to their advantage. SO BEWARE! In my deal, Rossmeyer was charging $5,500 more then the MSRP.  I was unaware of this at signing the "deal."  I thought I had a "level playing field," in that I was paying MSRP.  My ignorance cost me, so don’t get caught by this type of tactic and warn all your friends and prospective buyers to beware.  The friendly dealer selling a riding "lifestyle" may just be "taking you for a ride."


How do you find out about the actual MSRP?  Check the manufacturer’s website.  For Harley it is www.harley-davidson.com. This official website lists MSRP for their bikes.  Now, some dealers only sell at MSRP.  For other dealers it is a shell game, so become informed first or pay the piper.  Been there - done that - didn't like it!


Always Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth!


Here is the game played by some dealers like Rossmeyer.  Inflate the price of the motorcycle by $5,500 and give back a “gift” card for $1,000.  How generous of them.  This makes the dealer look good, but it is nothing but a scam to entice you to buy.  Not a good deal for you, though for them it is.  Unless the manufacturer is giving the card, beware of any dealer’s “gift” card.  Always verify that you are paying MSRP.


FINANCING


Motorcycles are considered recreational vehicles, why I don't know, so the percentages charged are higher then for autos.  At this writing it is around to 10% with good credit.  If you have the option, pay for it in cash.  Tax write offs are based upon your tax bracket, so for example if you are in the 25% tax bracket, you only get to write-off 25% of the interest you paid in.  And you don't get to write-off personal interest, so to get any write-off, you'll need to have it in a corporate name (see a tax advisor). That means 75% you don't get back and becomes a gift for some needy lender’s deep pockets.  You make the choice.


EXTRA CHARGES


Dealers will tell you these add-on charges are not removable, but this is simply not true. Dealers make enough at MSRP.  They are possibly entitled to a small set-up fee.  I was charged a $589 “service” fee and the dealer told me they had generously waived the set-up fee.  These fees are not mandated by law or the manufacturer, only the dealer’s greed. Go to another dealer if they won’t waive it.  Check with your State’s Consumers Affair Department.


I was contacted by and addressed my issues with a man that identified himself as the General Sales Manager for all Bruce Rossmeyer Harley Davidson dealerships, Mike Reed*. He knew of my complaint letter and asked me to tell him my side of the story. He then got back to me after "looking in to the matter" with the a response that boiled down to “You came to us.”  This meant he explained that I was not protected by the consumer protection laws. This mimics the response of the store sales manager.  Their logic is that I walked in their doors, so I have no consumer protection.  I outlined in detail the events of the transaction in a letter to Jim McCaslin, the President of Harley-Davidson.  This letter can be seen by selecting the link at top.  Harley's response is posted also on the links at left.


Now, one problem has been brought to my attention.  If a prospective purchaser is going to buy on impulse as I did, they probably won’t do their homework any better than I did.  This is why the laws must change, to protect the unaware consumer.  I had thought the same "Consumer Protection Laws" protecting new car purchases, protected all vehicle purchasers.  Obviously not so!  I let my guard down because of this incorrect belief.  So how do we prevent others from getting the shaft?  Let others know to always verify MSRP.  Tell them to have the dealer pull-up the MSRP on their computers and show it to them, otherwise leave the dealership.  Warn others of unscrupulous practices, like those I experienced at Bruce Rossmeyer Harley-Davidson.


I have written to my Congressional and State Representatives asking them to have motorcycles, and for that matter all recreational vehicles, be required to have posted the MSRP, as required for cars.  Motorcycle buyers are consumers and should be entitled to protection under our laws.  The act that needs broadening to include motorcycles is called the Automobile Information Disclosure Act (AIDA), commonly called the “Monroney”  act, which dictates the information to be disclosed to protect consumers when buying a vehicle.  This is a federal law, which should be extended to all vehicles.  This may require an "act of congress."  I also want individual states to pass consumer protection laws to require the posting of the MSRP.  If would be great if you, the reader of this website also wrote to your federal and state senators and representatives.  I have posted a letter to legislators in, which you can download and use.  Look in the front of your phone book or go online to your state and the U.S. Congress and you will find their names and addresses.  Both the federal and state statutes need correcting.


UPDATE (March): I spoke with Ronald Montford from the FL Div. of Consumer's Affairs who called me at the behest of US Senator Mel Martinez who was responding to my letter.  He looked up the "Monroney" Act and found that the law states it is applicable to "passenger vehicles" and does not exclude motorcycles.  Motorcycles are not commercial vehicles or farm vehicles. Clearly, they are passenger vehicles, so perhaps we will have some legal action taken by the State.  Hopefully, this is not wishful thinking.  I am looking for the Attorney General to issue an opinion on the status of motorcycles.  If it is decided that they are passenger vehicles, then the dealers are violating the law.


A little on me: I started riding at 15½ and built a chopper from a box of parts at 17, selling it a few years later. It was a 1949 Triumph Speed Twin (that’s me on it on the left).  I stopped riding for many years, until my recent purchase.  I took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's safety course and I highly recommend it.  They can be contacted at www.msf-usa.org.  They also have an Experience Rider Safety Course that can even teach old dogs, new tricks.  Do it!


*8/22/07 Update - Today, I was in the Ft. Lauderdale Rossmeyer HD Store giving a friend a ride to pick up his bike (it was not ready as promised).  I spoke there with Randy Borchetta, the General Manager (GM).  He said he was aware of this website and thought it a little unfair (really?).  He also wondered who was Mike Reed -??? After a bit of shock on my part, he explained that there is, and never has been, a Mike Reed in the Rossmeyer Organization, and certainly not as the General Sales Manager (GSM) for all Rossmeyer HD. This fictitious person would have been his direct boss.  Interesting - so who is he? Randy thought that the former GM of the Pompano Beach Store, Brian, who I mentioned above, might have had a friend call and pretend to be the GSM.  He would have given him details of my complaint letter.  Randy informed me that Brian is no longer with Rossmeyer HD.  OK, this sounded true, so I asked him, why, if this was misinformation on my website, did no one in the Rossmeyer organization contact me to discuss both this misinformation and my "beef" with them.  He said he "could not answer that."  I suggested that he ask Rossmeyer this directly.  He agreed to do that.  We shall see, we shall see.


Randy also mentioned that every Rossmeyer store is run the way each GM wants it, as long as they make their "numbers," and that it was unfair of me to say they are all the same.  He went on to say his store always reveals the MSRP (except on Screaming Eagle Models), and if they are charging more than MSRP always tells the customer they are.  OK, so if they are so honest it would be even more reason to speak with me, yet, after nearly 10 months, no one has done so.  This is not good business practice on the part of the Rossmeyer organization.


1/11/08 Update - NOTHING has occurred, no contact has been made by the dealer.


2/15/08 Update - Nothing, but did find out that some crankshafts are failing on the 110 engines in Harleys. Buyer beware!



Ride safe & have fun,


David G. Eigen, Ph.D.